Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Organise Email Better


I think it's fair to say, that despite the proliferation of digital tools in the past decade or three since this whole digital and information revolution started, other than the web browser, the humble email remains resolute, and love it or loathe it, remains absolutely essential. I've written before about the mistaken hype around change in tech, but I'll say it again; change is not as fast in tech as people often assert, a fact that can be underscored by the persistence of email. So if you've been waiting for this form of electronic communication to become obsolete, I'm afraid you'll be waiting a long time—it's not going anywhere soon, so you'd better develop some effective strategies for managing it effectively.

Now before you complain about your overloaded inbox, that's not the fault of email, that's the fact of living and working in a large, busy, complex organisation—I still remember the days before email, when we used 'pigeon holes' in staff rooms, and there were plenty of those that were stuffed to overflowing then as well. I'd venture so far as to say, it's a safe bet, those people who struggled to manage then, will struggle with email now—fortunately email has a few features to help that pigeon holes didn't/don't.



Number 1. DELETE NOTHING (unless it's abusive). There is plenty of space in your GMail inbox, so chillax, let that email slumber sweetly within your nice and comfy inbox. It's OK. You have better things to do with your time.

Number 2. Read them all, even if it's but a glance, it only takes a click, just open one at the start (or end), and keep clicking through until you get to the end (or the beginning). You might even find this easier to do on your phone/tablet than in your browser...

Number 3: Instead of leaving messages unread, STAR (or Flag in Mail) emails you have read, but need to follow up on, then unstar (Is that a word? It is now) them when you're finished. Just click on the star icon. If you find yourself loving this option as much as I do, you might be interested in taking it further with different kinds of stars, to indicate the kind of email it is—urgent? useful info? question? See this post if you'd like to know more...

Number 4: Use the Starred option in the menu to easily view just the Emails you need to deal with.



Number 5: Don't waste time making/organising labels/folders, just rely on search, after all this is GMail and that is what Google do best. Putting to:name and from:name are really handy search tips, but if an email is proving really hard to locate just pop open the extra search options and you'll find it in no time—works searching Google Drive too!



Number 6: Try a tabbed inbox, all emails to groups (not directly to you) go to a separate tab, and emails to social platforms like Google groups get routed to a separate tab.



Number 7: Block Spam, not interested in those emails? Well stop them from continually clogging up your inbox by either unsubscribing (usually a link hidden at the bottom of the email) or hit the 'Report Spam' button, that tells GMail to delete and to delete any others coming from that sender.




Number 8: Last but not least, try Boomerang—what? Boomerang is a useful tool with a strange name that informs you if an email you sent has not been replied to after a certain period of time that you designate. It also allows you to time when emails you send are actually delivered.



Monday, 27 June 2016

Holidays, Screen Time & Parental Guilt


Screen time: Interacting? Consuming? Communicating? Creating? [www.heart.net]

Holidays are fabulous, and with them comes, especially for your children, time, in particular, more leisure time; and in a world where “screen time” is becoming simply “time,” for many, while we anticipate some great memories and experiences, with the typical 21st-century family it doesn't take long before the inevitable tensions caused by the multiplicity of screens in the home can start to cause problems. The fact is that a vacation inevitably means more time spent with screens, for the whole family, not just the kids. Yes, you know it's true.

Cue the inevitable pangs of parental guilt, brilliantly summed up in a recent article from The Atlantic:

"Tune into the conversation about kids and screen time, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that before the invention of the iPhone, parents spent every waking moment engaging their kids in deep conversation, undertaking creatively expressive arts-and-crafts projects, or growing their own vegetables in the backyard garden. There’s a tendency to portray time spent away from screens as idyllic, and time spent in front of them as something to panic about. 
But research shows that vilifying the devices’ place in family life may be misguided."

Depending on where you will be spending your vacation, you may well find yourself in a situation where your children are stuck indoors for many hours. Obviously a long haul flight means that kind of scenario and most families are prepared to tolerate a lot more screen time in that situation for the sake of maintaining sanity. But what happens when, at your destination, you are faced with, for example, inclement weather (yes Ireland, I'm looking at you). This means that potentially your children are stuck inside for days on end, and there's only so many hours you can spend persuading them to play board games and read books before screens and their many distractions become a temptation... Then when (not if) parents inevitably concede, it causes a great deal of guilt, not to mention potential condemnation from in-laws?


Screen Time - Not just a kid thing [Credit Paul Rogers]

How much is too much?

Common sense media have recently released the results of a huge census that they have taken, 'Media use by Tweens and Teens', researching typical uses of screen time. I've written about the issue of screen time before in the context of early childhood. But what make this census of particular interest is that it's focused on the screen time of older children. The findings are certainly worth reading, and for the most part they handle the issues it represents well, other than their tendency to grandstand with their "9 HOURS OF MEDIA DAILY" (which includes listening to music, something you could be doing while spending a week hiking in the mountains...) But my main gripe is their strange choice to exclude adults from the census—it's my contention that many if not most adults would rack up just as many hours as our children, if not more (especially if they're working on screens during the vacation, which many do). Given a comparison like that, it would put this kind of alarmist rhetoric into a much more reasonable perspective. For example, at least two recent studies show that the typical adult spends between eight and eleven hours on screens, although "to be fair, much of that probably happens while doing other things at the same time." (Statista)



As mentioned, the amount of "free time" available to everyone in the family during vacations increases, but you can be sure that especially for your children, with this significant increase, the likelihood is that your children will want to occupy most, if not all of this free time with "entertainment media". This was the focus of the census, and included media like books, not just screens, but as you will not be surprised to learn, screens dominated. A lot.
"entertainment media” is a very broad category, including everything from music, TV shows and videos, books, and websites to computer, video, and mobile games. But the fact that tweens and teens in the U.S. are using an average of six to nine hours' worth of media a day is still astounding. As discussed elsewhere, this does not mean they are stopping all other activity and attending only to media during this time; but it is still a large amount of time spent absorbing a large amount of content.
...
on any given day fully one in five 8- to 12-year-olds in this country is using more than six hours of screen media, and nearly as many teens (18 percent) are using more than 10 hours of screen media." (The Common Sense Census, 2015, p 30)

The survey provides little of anything in terms of advice as to how to manage this, although one particular statistic really stood out to me, and it is at the heart of my advice to parents in dealing with this tricky issue.

Media Use by Tweens and Tweens Report - Page 22

"Only 3% of teens' and tweens' digital media time is spent on content creation" 

Almost every vacation I get bombarded with emails parents and teachers desperately requesting ideas for ways that they can use screen time more productively during their vacation, so here is my advice if you want to try and make screen time more productive in your family this holiday.

Get creative

The notion of screen time as a one-dimensional activity is changing. Computers, tablets, and smartphones are multipurpose devices that can be used for, well, lots of purposes. Designating their use simply as "screen time" can miss some important variations. The Common Sense Census identifies four main categories of screen time.

  • Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music 
  • Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
  • Communication: video-chatting and using social media
  • ​Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music

21st Century Family Screen Time [image credit: pc.advisor.co.uk]

If screen media use can mean writing a short story on a computer, video-chatting with relatives, watching videos, reading the news online, or playing games, what is the point of documenting the total amount of time teens spend using screens? Instead of auditing, let's focus more on balance, the paltry amount of time spent creating with screens could be nudged up extensively by replicating at home some of the ways we encourage our students to use screens in school, only this time giving your kids much greater freedom of choice in terms of the focus of their creative endeavours...

If your children are dual language learners (DLLs), this is an excellent way to encourage them to reinforce their language other than English, by replicating some of their school projects in their mother tongue.

A model I use for framing our use of screens at UWCSEA is something I sum up as 'vitamin digital' of 'VITAD'; five domains of tech use. Even better, as your kids have been working within many (if not all) of these domains, they will already have a good idea of the kinds of tools they need to use, without you needing to teach them! Each of these domains is powerful in its own right, but they really come into their own when you start exploring combinations of them...

VITAD - Video, Image, Text, Audio and Data Handling - Core Domains of Tech

Video editing:

Make music videos, animation, stop motion video, 'supercuts' from YouTube clips. Why not appoint your kids as family 'media journalists', why not give them the job of documenting the holiday? I'm sure they'll let you contribute some of your media to the project... 

Image creation:

Image montage/mash up, slideshow, add music to convert the slide show into a music video? Image editing, filters, layers, digital artwork... 

Text: 

Make an ebook, presentation, blog, choose your own adventure (hyperlinked Google Slides), coding, website, browse (research holiday destination?) persuade, demonstrate...

Learn to touch-type, for more advice on this see my related post, but it's safe to say that if you/your child dedicated 15-30 minutes a day to this everyday throughout the holidays they could be proficient by the start of the new school term in August! 

Audio: 

Slideshow commentary, soundtrack, podcast/radio show, composition in GarageBand, or remix of favourite tracks? 

Data handling: 

Spreadsheets: pocket money, trip budget, holiday costing, problem solving, graphing stats (choose data and gather ie how many times does 'x' do 'y'???

Maths:

Do not be mistaken, just because they are working with Maths activities on a screen, doesn't make the experience much more palatable for your kids. That said, there is no doubt that using screens to encourage greater numeracy is a no-brainer, these tools are brilliant at enabling practise, with immediate feedback, and developing 'automaticity'. Despite this, Maths practise will most likely need to be encouraged with tangible rewards for completion of certain achievements. I expect my kids to do a half an hour of Khan Academy before they do any other screen activity, half an hour a day during vacations is the goal. Maybe offer them rewards as they complete certain mile posts or missions? In order to keep vacation stress to a minimum, I find it a really good idea to ask them to go back and master grade missions that precede the grade they're in, as this is an effective form of revision/consolidation/practise, even if this means a Grade 5 student working on the Early Years mission to get started, if I did it, so can they! This way you're also less likely to be called on to help with problems that they can't solve independently, and they are more likely to enjoy the sense of fluency and confidence that comes with working speedily through concepts that they have practised in previous years, not to mention the reward of mastering a grade level. That said, both you and they might be surprised at how many foundational skills they are less confident in than they thought, just as well you did this then, isn't it?

... Better still, why not join them in a little Maths revision yourself? The Khan Academy App on the iPad is particularly good for this.

There are plenty of other options besides Khan Academy, especially if you don't have a reliable WiFi connection, these can be really useful. One of my favourites is the Ken Ken App, like Sodoku, but with basic operations thrown in. Also, pretty much anything from the developers behind Squeebles is a safe bet—there are many tried and tested Maths Apps, such as these, and these, that you can install on an iOS device near you, I'm sure many if not most of these are also available on Android.



Coding

Check out my coding posts on this blog and you'll see a complete guide of many kinds of apps and sites to fill any vacation... :)

Focus on the Meaning not the Medium

Now I'm not going to pretend that all these ways to use screens to create are going to trump the use of screens to consume, interact and communicate, any more than you have any intention of only using screens in your life for creating. For this reason you may need some incentives are going to have to be in the form of some essential agreements; with a bit of careful negotiation I'm sure you can work out some sort of compromise...

Finally, some wise words from the American Association of Pediatrics (updated October 2015):
"Media is just another environment. Children do the same things they have always done, only virtually. Like any environment, media can have positive and negative effects. 
Content matters. The quality of content is more important than the platform or time spent with media. Prioritize how your child spends his time rather than just setting a timer."

Monday, 6 June 2016

Google Drive, Google Photos & Pixels

Picasa is dead


... well it's dying... The good news is that Google are replacing it with a new tool, that's better, called Google Photos. The new tool as several advantages over Picasa, with the exception of the fact that for some reason Google have removed the ability to embed albums, which, let's face it, very few people need to do, the switch to Google Photos is a big win. 

Let me count the ways:

  1. Unlimited storage (for GApps domains)
  2. Let me say that again,  UNLIMITED storage - wow.
  3. Vastly improved user interface
  4. Support across all devices, mobile, laptop, desktop...
  5. iPad friendly albums, Picasa albums could not be viewed, those days are gone.
  6. Searchable photos, even without your naming them, Google can recognise the content in your photos, eg if you search for 'dog'. 
  7. Media backup, using the desktop uploader you can now upload all (or as much as you want) of your media to Google Photos, and remove it from your hard drive to save space.


Don't Panic!

Google reassure us that, 

"If you have photos or videos in a Picasa Web Album today, the easiest way to still access, modify and share most of that content is to log in to Google Photos, and all your photos and videos will already be there. Using Google Photos, you can continue to upload and organize your memories, as well as enjoy other great benefits like better ways to search and share your images. 

However, for those of you who don’t want to use Google Photos or who still want to be able to view specific content, such as tags, captions or comments, we will be creating a new place for you to access your Picasa Web Albums data. That way, you will still be able to view, download, or delete your Picasa Web Albums, you just won’t be able to create, organize or edit albums (you would now do this in Google Photos)."

Google Photo Albums

You can easily find Google Photos, by using that link, or you can also find it by clicking on the app grid in GMail, then scroll down:



What about Google+ Photos?

This replaces that as well, which is also better in many ways as it's specifically devoted to photo and video sharing, with no intrinsic ties to the Google+ social network.

In fact if you try to access Google+ photos you will automatically be redirected to the new Google Photos, don't panic, all of the media you uploaded to Google+ will be available within Google Photos. If you want you can still use Google+, you can even still use the relatively geriatric Picasa but not for much longer, although it is not very mobile device friendly, and does not allow parents to download videos... So I wouldn't if I were you.


Friday, 27 May 2016

Gaming - Parent Questions

How much is too much?

During a normal school week, during term time, spending about 2 hours per day on screen for recreation (not including homework screen time) is normal; and I would expect this time to easily double during holidays/weekends. An important point to consider here is that we should not treat screen time as different to any other time, it is the activity that is essential to consider, not the medium they are using. For a more authoritative position on this, here is a link to the updated guidelines from the AAP:

http://www.aappublications.org/content/36/10/54.full

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/11/why-parents-shouldnt-feel-technology-shame/414163/

What age is appropriate for a child to play video games?

As soon as they are able to—this is another example of 'media bias'; do we ask what age children should be allowed to read? watch TV? play outside? The answer is the same for all of these, as soon as they want to/are able to. The question is not when, but what; what games, books, video, kinds of play are appropriate? And as with all of these forms of media, most of them will require parental assistance at early ages.

Do you have any helpful guidelines that will practically help my child to control their consumption of the games ?

Again I have to caution parents on media bias with this kind of question; do they ask these questions about controlling their child's consumption of books? Watching video? Their time spent playing outside? With any happy, healthy lifestyle, balance is always paramount, and I would advocate balance between all of these valuable ways to spend time in recreation. I encourage balancing active recreational activities with passive recreational activities, ie reading books balanced with watching video, playing video games in the 'virtual world' balanced with playing outside or the 'real world'.

What games do you play?

I am personally not keen on multiplayer games, perhaps a sign of my age, as I rarely encounter any students who have a similar predilection. I engage in video games in a similar way to that of other forms of media like books and films and, as such I like my games to be very strongly story driven, with a powerful narrative elements, utilising a single player format with a preference towards action adventure games. A list of my favourite games would indicate a very strong bias towards this genre eg Zelda, Uncharted, Half-life, Tomb Raider, Skyrim, The Witcher, Assassin's Creed, Bioshock, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Batman Arkham, Shadow of Mordor, Uncharted... there are many more!

Don't games sap a child's imagination?

I have yet to encounter any authoritative research that makes this case, although I would say it is unfair to expect a genre like gaming to provide exactly the same kind of cognitive experience as that of other forms of media, which is why I strongly advocate for children to engage with many different types of media as a part of their recreational life. My question in response to this is, do you ask the same question of the other active recreational pursuits such as football, skiing, tennis, swimming et cetera? Do you believe participating in sports 'takes away' imagination? Do you believe this is a relevant question to pose in the context of these kinds of active pursuits? I do not believe they are. I do not believe that active pursuits like sport and gaming are pursuits within which you can expect ‘imagination’ to be engaged in the same way as it is when someone is, for example, writing a story or constructing a narrative in their heads as they are reading a book.

Why do games always involve shooting, fighting, conflict, etc?

I think the answer to this is simple, although you may not like it… conflict is a core element of any media narrative, and it takes many forms, some of which will be shooting, some fighting, almost all of which ultimately result in some form of victory or loss. Again I appeal to a comparison with other active forms of recreation; do you really think anyone would enjoy playing a sport where there was no rivalry? no winner or loser? Even if this is you losing against your previous performance? I doubt it very much, this appears to be very much a part of the human condition. I think you would struggle to find a great story in History that does not require conflict to be a major theme, again please let us not single out games the criticism in this area, but let us subject all forms of media to the same scrutiny. So a better question would be, why do books, films, always contain conflict? I think that is a question for a psychologist. 
"Conflict is the essence of drama and all literary fiction requires drama to please the reader and to succeed as a story. At the story core, conflict is the momentum of happening and change and is crucial on all levels for delivering information and building characterization. Conflict is the source of change that engages a reader, and in a story, conflict and action does what description and telling of feelings and situations do not."
http://www.storyinliteraryfiction.com/essays-on-writing/conflict-in-literary-fiction/

​Is TF2 ​[Team Fortress 2/Overwatch - a shooting game] ​appropriate for 12 year old child?

I believe that ​it is,​​ as it falls​ into the category ​that​ I ​describe as ​"​cops and robbers" ​games, ​or​ ​"wild west" ​violence where there is​ a great deal of​ shooting, ​but there is ​little or no blood. In this game the entire ​arena is cartoonish and certainly not photo realistic.​ Regardless of your personal qualms, I think you need to accept that, especially for boys/men, shooting is inherently fun; whether that is paintball, archery, airgun pellets shooting cans off walls, or peashooters, there seems to be something built into the human psyche that finds this fun. I know I do!

This is of course also a parenting choice, and you would need to make a choice that is consistent with your advice to your child in other forms of media; so if you do decide that this level of violence is inappropriate your child, you should also ensure that you are consistent in this standard across the other forms of media that your child enjoys, specifically the books to read and the videos they view.​ Finally, whenever these questions arise it is a good idea to consult websites like those I've listed below to get parental reviews and other parental opinions. Also look at game footage in YouTube so that you can see yourself how the game plays in terms of the appropriateness of the content.

http://www.everybodyplays.co.uk/parents-guides/

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews

Which console do you recommend for kids below 10?

I'm conscious that as my current console is a PS4 so my recent experience with games is oriented to that platform, added to which, my own kids are now much older, so my awareness of games is more attuned to older gamers. All of that said...

The most obvious choice is the Wii U, the most 'family' oriented console, but unfortunately many families buy the console, and then fail to buy the best games for it. So whatever you do, don't fall games that 'look' good, only go for games that also have an excellent reputation. How? Using sites like:

http://www.everybodyplays.co.uk/game-finder/


For example, my search for games for an 8 year old brings up:

http://www.everybodyplays.co.uk/game-finder/WiiU/games-for-an-8-year-old/low

I'd stick with only 4-5 star reviews. Even then, once I'd found a game that looks appropriate, I'd cross reference it with other sites like Metacritic to make sure it really is as good as they say. For example everybodyplays recommends Yoshi's Woolly World, with 5/5, metacritic says 75/100 - that's still pretty impressive, so assuming you like the sound of the game, go for it.

For whole family fun, it's hard to beat Mario Kart, but Nintendo in particular have always been good at catering to 4 at once, more than that is difficult, as long as you have a big TV!

You'll notice that if you do the same searches for games on the PS4 there will be far fewer titles, but no matter your console choice there will be something that fits. Also bear in mind that there are games that are not designed for kids, but that kids would still love although they'd need help from mum or dad to play it, on the PS4 that includes games like Journey, Flow, Fez, Flower ...

To sum up - compare game reviews for parents with other game review sites, I'd recommend these 3:

http://www.everybodyplays.co.uk/game-finder/

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews

http://www.metacritic.com/game


How do you teach your children not to play games during class/homework? What if they always get distracted because the game is so good?


This is not really a question about video gaming, it is more question about parenting, and it is not really a new problem. As long as there have been activities that are preferable to other activities there are always tensions between parents and their children in terms of managing these temptations.

The alternative could be an attractive girl/boy, best friends, new bicycle, even climbing a tree, most of these things would be preferable to doing homework, it just happens that video games have been added to the tempting list. As with all of these distractions you will need to work out reasonable compromises with your children that involve them committing to a certain in amount of time on the thing they don't want to do before you give them time to do the things they would rather do.​..


What if they start playing with strangers on a server?

What if they start playing with strangers in a playground? Again there is no need to select video games servers for special treatment, all a video game server is is a digital version of a playground, in this regard is subject to the same kinds of opportunities and challenges as​ a​ ​'​real-world​'​ playground.​ With the possible exception of the fact that in a digital playground they cannot actually be physically hurt, although the possibility of the emotional trauma due to emotional abuse is just as likely if not more so, if the server is not supervised or moderated.​

As long as you keep in mind this consistency in terms of an analogy you should do well, because the same expectations apply. Your child should make responsible choices about the spaces they choose to play in. If they find that there are people in that space who not playing nicely they should politely asked them to stop, if they do not do so, then they should report the behaviour to a moderator (the kids call these 'mods', the equivalent of playground supervision) then they should leave and play somewhere else. There are many online servers available for multiplayer gaming, many are designed specifically for adults, but they also exist for children. Of course the kind of behaviour tolerated in an adult server will be very different to that on a server set up for children, just as you would expect if your child attended an adult football game, compared to a local children's playground. It is generally the case that kids are aware of a range of servers (digital playgrounds) that they use, and in my experience they are generally quite adept at making responsible choices, after all no one really wants to play in an environment that is abusive or aggressive.


My son wants to play a game called 'Uncharted 4'. I looked it up on the sites you suggested, and have mixed feelings... 

However, I am open, but would also want him to try out more appropriate educational strategy games. You mentioned the Legend of Zelda, but it looks like that this is not available on PS4. So, long story short, may I trouble to ask you:
- whether you have a view of the game
- whether Zelda is indeed not available on PS4
- what games you would propose a 13 years old former Eragon reader looks into


The Uncharted series is absolutely outstanding, so if he is going to play it, he should really start at beginning, the first 3 games can be downloaded from the PlayStation Network Uncharted: 'The Nathan Drake Collection'. As for appropriateness, there's no swearing, violence is of the 'cops and robbers' variety, ie not gratuitous. Again, commonsense media's rating is not much use, but the parent reviews are, I would wholeheartedly agree with this assessment:

"This game contains 3 amazing adventures that have won tons of awards. My 10 year old nephew plays and loves this game. There is no sex and language is occasional and mild. Violence is cinematic. In the second game, the opening scene shows protagonist on a hanging train off an exploded track. He has blood on his chest and his face. Blood splattering isn't present. Most of the game is spent scaling cliffs and hand to hand combat. Guns are an option but it is nonviolent and non bloody. The game is like an adventure movie with tons of action. It is similar to Indiana Jones and Tomb Raider. 10-11+ depending on how protective you are."

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/game-reviews/uncharted-the-nathan-drake-collection/user-reviews/adult

The actual review from commonsense is useful, as long as you rely on that, and not on their rating, I’d say it’s fine for kids aged 10+:

"Parents need to know that Uncharted: The Nathan Drake Collection is a compilation of three third-person-shooter games starring charismatic treasure hunter Nathan Drake. Play comprises a mix of exploration, puzzle solving, and frenetic melee combat and firefights. Nathan uses a variety of weapons to shoot and kill hundreds of ill-meaning human enemies over the course of all three games, rarely expressing remorse over his actions. He's also a very likeable guy who generally tries to do right by his friends and those he cares about. His romantic relationships, while an important part of the narrative, result in nothing more physical than kissing and a bit of innuendo. Light profanity occurs occasionally in dialogue, and a major character is fond of cigars."

So if you'd allow your son to watch an Indiana Jones film, or even James Bond, and allow him to read Eragon, then I don't see why you'd say no to this. If you're still unsure have a look at some gameplay footage on YouTube, watch it with your son, and have an honest conversation about it, tell him your concerns, and encourage him to reassure you ... if he can!

Yes, as you are correct, the Zelda series of games are exclusive to Nintendo, they are so good that it is common for people to purchase the Wii U, just so they can play those games, I did! to be fair the same is true of the Uncharted series, a Playstation exclusive.

The Zelda games were/are such a such an industry defining tour de force, that they have had a massive influence on pretty much all the 3D action adventure role playing games that followed, none that can match the originals, but even close is amazing.

Games that emulate the genius of the Zelda games - exploration, puzzles, boss fights, story, epic scale, legendary status, 'good' central hero, 'puzzle box' level design, ... are:
  • Beyond Good and Evil
  • Okami
  • Darksiders
  • Portal 2

Unfortunately all only on the PS3! There are rumours that Sony are going to enable the PS4 to play PS3 games, we await with baited breath!

But all's not lost, there are still many great games that employ similar game mechanics to the Zelda games on the PS4, unfortunately a few of them are not appropriate for Grade 7 students to play, (like The Witcher, and Dark Souls)... But I would recommend the following, 3rd person action/adventure games:

  • All the Batman games, Arkham Knight et al.
  • Dragon Age: Inquisition
  • Ratchet & Clank
  • Any Assassin's Creed game, but especially Black Flag IV (you can turn blood off in settings)
  • Tomb Raider

My presentation and the related content is available here: bit.ly/uwcgaming


Tech Enhanced MindMaps

Mindmap Methodology via Examtime

Mind maps are such flexible, powerful ways to represent learning, and yet I rarely see them used. I think one thing that probably puts people off is they think they might as well just use paper, and I too once thought this... I was wrong.

Shifting mind maps to a screen drastically changes what you can do with them—so when you ask students to mind map on a screen, don't just ask them to replace what they can do just as well with paper mind maps—use SAMMS to transform them, so they are used in ways that can’t be replicated using static media like paper:

Situated Creativity

Online or 'cloud based' mind maps can be worked on in groups, synchronously and asynchronously - collaboratively or cooperatively, a seamless blend of classwork/homework. This means that rather than the tedium of teachers collecting in the work regularly to 'mark' the can view any of them, at any time, anywhere.

Accessibility

Smart web search for images to illustrate stages - combine with smart use of unit keywords (process, source) to really empower inquiry, eg students can clarify the understanding of essential words and terms by adding images that to illustrate (not just decorate) their maps; eg students learning about the process of how chocolate is manufactures can add an image that illustrates “chocolate process” or ‘chocolate source” to amplify the meaning of key ideas with images, and even videos. Terms that are ambiguous or confusing for the student can include a simple definition (in Google just type define: ). The treasure trove of knowledge that is the internet becomes a cornucopia of content to simple and easily make a mind map a glorious representation of that students expanding understanding.

Mutability

This is probably the most powerful enhancement of mind mapping on a screen. The mind map can be evolve, so it a form of assessment I call an ‘ongoingative’, in that it starts as a pre-assessment, gets used formatively throughout the unit, and ends up becoming a summative assessment. A much more natural, nonlinear, ‘organic’ way to organise ideas—starting very simply with initial ideas and understanding (pre-assessment), then revisiting the same mindmap regularly (once a week?) taking screenshots of the changes/evolution over the course of the unit.* Another factor here is that, unlike with the paper equivalent, ideas can easily be dragged and dropped, disconnected and reconnected, moved and removed as the overall map becomes more focused and as a clear structure emerges. Also, on the screen there is no need to be confined to the limits of a page, they can allow their mind map to expand in any direction their thinking takes them. The examples below (Rewind, Review, Reflect) shows how this works in Mind Meister using the history tool to review a process that took weeks in minutes.

Multimodality

At the end of the unit, the screen shots of the mind maps over the previous weeks can be turned into a screencast with the student reflecting on their learning. In iOS Puppet EDU makes this very easy, or use Quicktime to narrate a sequence of screenshots. Alternatively kids could use PicCollage to make a montage of key screenshots of a LJ post, with some text to summarise their learning? Mind maps like Mind Meister incorporate a Prezi like presentation mode, that allows the students to guide the audience/teacher through the elements that are most essential, they can even add a narration using an app like QuickTime - see the 'Reflect, Present, Narrate...' example below.


Socially Networked Activity

Mid unit reflection, kids can share their on going work in a multiplicity of ways, from sharing their mind map with their peers to facilitate collaboration or cooperation, or as simple as posting a screen capture of the most recent version of their mind map to share with the class, either via a class online space, or a Padlet et cetera. Peer to peer feedback, mediated by the teacher.


An Example from Grade  3

Michael Wheeler worked though a unit with his class that really exemplifies how well this approach works. Over the course of several weeks the mind map/concept map became a repository for recording and reflecting on their learning experiences throughout the unit; special guests, website info, BrainPop activities and videos, educational interactives—all summarised and and mapped in relation to three essential understandings. 




Rewind, Review, Reflect

This video powerfully demonstrates the 'history' tool, which effectively allows the students to rewind the map, and review the entire process of learning and inquiry captured over the preceding weeks.


Reflect, Present, Narrate...

The screen captures below demonstrate the final stage of the project, where each student was able to turn this formative record of learning into a summative presentation with a few clicks, this was then used to record a screen narration where the students reflected upon their work, by summing up the overarching understandings from the unit, not just narrating the text on the screen.


Across the Curriculum

Mind maps can be used for:

  • problem solving - WWWHWW
  • outline/framework design
  • structure/relationship representations
  • marriage of words and visuals
  • condensing material into a concise and memorable format
  • Project management 
  • Book/film/unit summaries
  • Word study - spellings, forms, etymology, patterns/conventions/connections
  • Brainstorming (ideation)
  • Knowledge management (including pre assessment) 
  • Planning 
  • Ongoingatives 
  • Connections between concepts, ideas, knowledge, skills. 
  • Maths strategy representations and connections, and/or process stages/steps

Concept maps vs Mind Maps

Technically mind maps differ from concept maps in that mind maps focus on only one word or idea, whereas concept maps connect multiple words or ideas. Also, concept maps typically have text labels on their connecting lines/arms. Mind maps are based on radial hierarchies and tree structures denoting relationships with a central governing concept, whereas concept maps are based on connections between concepts in more diverse patterns. A concept map is a way of representing relationships between ideas, images, or words. In a concept map, each word or phrase is connected to another and linked back to the original idea, word or phrase. Concept maps are a way to develop logical thinking by revealing connections and helping students see how individual ideas form a larger whole.

A Mind map reflects what you think about a single topic, which can focus group brainstorming. A Concept maps are more free form, as multiple hubs and clusters can be created, unlike mind maps which fix on a single conceptual centre. The reality is that I doubt many people really care about the semantic differences, my mind maps also exploit the features of concept maps, or maybe it's vice versa? The point is that this model is versatile and dynamic, it can be whatever you want it to be. This is a sentiment clearly echoed by a passionate advocate of this way of working, Ken Robinson; who gives the following, practical advice:
There is no wrong way to create a mind map as long as it makes sense to you. Mind mapping offers you a lot of creative freedom and can open whole new ways if thinking. Here are some of the main principles you to keep in mind as you practice mind mapping: 
  • Use single words or very short phrases for each line. Remember, this is a visual as much as a verbal system.
  • Form organic connections.
  • Use a variety of colours throughout the mind map. Colours give the map visual appeal and they help to identify different levels and types of ideas."
  • Each keyword or image should have its own line. 
Finding Your Element, pp 11-12

Key Concept Mind Maps

No need to look far for the a set of powerful single words that can form the basis of a concept map in any curricular area, some or all this essential 8, I call, '2Fs, 3Cs, 2Rs and 1P' are all you need:
  • form - define it, what is it?
  • function - how does it work?
  • causation - why is it like this?
  • change - how is it changing?
  • connections - how is it similar to other things?
  • responsibility - what do you/we need to do about it?
  • reflection - how do you know what you think you know is true?
  • perspective - what are the possible points of view?
Key concept starters in Popplet




Key Concepts in Mind Meister


Some Suggested Tools

For the reasons outlined in this post, mind mapping tools that are situated online make the most sense, top of my list for these is Popplet, followed closely by MindMeister, which has the added advantage of working with GApps, although it is more suited to olders students, as you can see in the examples above, it works well with students as young as grade 3 as well.

*Mind maps like Popplet and Mindmeister include history tools that literally allow you to rewind to the start of the process and play it back.

Saturday, 21 May 2016

Not another Test/Rubric...?


http://www.hippoquotes.com/assessing-quotes


Assessment drives everything educational. So, not surprisingly, assessment is the biggest factor in terms of planning the use of tech in effective ways. This means that it's critical to ensure that we use a varied range of assessment strategies, which is where I find a surprising lack of options.

Why do so many teachers assume that only rubrics and tests are suitable for assessment? Sure they have their place but only within a suite of assessment strategies...

I don't mean to denigrate any particular assessment tool—clearly rubrics and tests can be effective assessment tools, but when they dominate, they have an unfortunate tendency to diminish the importance and efficacy of all of the other tools that are available. It is depressingly common to me that in virtually any educational context (classroom, conference, online) when the conversation inevitably turns to assessment, the question seems to default to, 'what rubric or test will we use?' rather than any awareness that there are a plethora of other tools and strategies that could be just as effective if not more so.

Do less, but do it better.

Now of course it's highly possible that teachers are unaware of the wider range of assessment tools they use effectively almost everyday, such as the ad hoc/informal conversations (conferences in the jargon) with students every day, to spirited class debates (not lectures) that utlise skilful Socratic strategies, which are in and of themselves valid assessment tools. The problem is that I think these are seen as somehow inferior to a "proper" test/rubric. All this does is create a lose/lose scenario for the teacher and the student.  Rather than focusing on tests and rubrics, wouldn't it be better for everyone if we were to embrace a much wider tool kit when it comes to assessment? To see them all as valid/powerful, maybe that conversation/conference was so effective that adding a rubric or a test is not only unnecessary but possibly even counter productive?

I think if you had asked most teachers why it is that they rely so strongly upon rubrics and tests as opposed to all of the other powerful forms of assessment, I think you would find that they would point to one sad fact; they feel they need paper with marks on, that they can attach a grade to, so they  can point to it as being hard evidence of their assessment judgement. While there is clearly a place for this kind of formal (usually summative) judgement, in my experience it is far too frequent and far too common. Teachers could do themselves a favour and do their students a favour by focusing on the goal of learning rather than the need to have a hard artefact to present evidence of every stage of progress.

What if instead we were to focus on the goal, that is, as long as the assessment tools you use allow you to provide effective individual feedback to the student and enables them to progress in their learning point where they are improving compare to their previous level of competence (ipsative assessment), then the goal has been achieved! So why not work a little smarter and use a range of assessment tools that are a far more varied. In so doing you create a classroom environment that is more dynamic, and far more effective for both the teacher and the student.

So what does this have to do with tech?

From my perspective, a classroom that exploits a wide range of assessment tools is a much richer environment within which to be able to integrate digital tools that can truly enhance and transform the way teachers teach and the way the students learn, and demonstrate the extent to which they have mastered the skills, knowledge and understanding that is truly the point, not just in ways that can be measured quantitatively on another test or a rubric. You don't have to look much further than an early childhood classroom to see this in action. Why? One thing their students can't do is demonstrate their understanding via tests or rubrics!

I've always found this matrix from the PYP to be particularly useful to illustrate this, although you may be surprised by the omission of tests from this grid, I believe they (somewhat disparagingly?) categorise these as 'check lists':

From Making the PYP Happen (IBO)

From the 'old days'—not new, but not common either.

If you really insist on using rubrics, a nice way to use them is for the teacher to define a central standard (eg a level 3 on a 5 point scale) and then ask the students to define and justify the level they feel their work sits in comparison to that, with examples.

More reading on the problems with rubrics, if you're so inclined:


Sunday, 15 May 2016

The Digital Mini-Lesson

There are times when you might have students away from class on field trips or when you wish to capture the essential understandings of the lesson for other everyone to refer back to later. With a couple of clicks of your laptop you create a simple screen recording to explain a concept.

Teamie is now a quick and easy platform to share such screen-recordings. With any post, you can choose to attach a video which will be published in line for your students to see and comment on.

There are three simple options to self-create digital mini lessons. From simple to slightly more sophisticated.

1. Quicktime Screen Recordings

From within your mac you can click and open Quicktime and then choose to record your screen. At the same time you can select the white arrow button to activate the microphone so that it can record your voice at same time. You can now open any presentation, document, image and then record you speaking over the top. If you are using Powerpoint or Keynote you can choose the pencil button and annotate on your thoughts.


2. Using a Document Camera 

Around the school there are plenty of Document Cameras which you can borrow to make a mini-lesson. By using Quicktime and the Movie Record option you can choose the document camera as an external video source and record your explanations. It is excellent for unpacking concepts, or for analysing a piece of text. Once done, save to your desktop and then upload to Teamie.


3. Screencasting apps on the iPad

An iPad allows you to create short tutorials on anything using annotation and voice recorder tools.
Using either Explain Everything or Doodlecast Pro you can prepare several different slides and then speak over them your narration. You can click on the drawing tools to explain your thinking.

Short mini-lessons created this way are a perfect way to unpack any misconceptions or issues that groups of students might have.


Friday, 13 May 2016

Quizlet - back to an old favourite

Quizlet is fast becoming one of those Swiss Army knife apps that you end up repurposing and going back to time and time again. Like most teachers you probably got the email about their new Quizlet Live feature so I was keen to give it a go.
In essence using Quizlet is a perfect approach to get students to revise new terms or develop and broaden their vocabulary. In Economics I want student to use the appropriate terms and words to explain the nuances of complicated concepts. For instance we want our students to confidently use the term 'appreciation' rather than trying to just say that a currency has gone 'up' In my experience Quizlet is a pretty good tool to help develop this basic knowledge.
Quizlet Live is a free games based add-on to the core flashcard tool. The game cleverly takes any existing stack of vocabulary and definitions and then creates a game. On the first prompt students visit Quizlet Live and then enter your class code from the screen. You need more than 6 students to join and then it will place them into groups.



The best hint is to get kids to then move to sit in the randomly allocated group. Once you click begin, the students have to match up the answers. (see demo) Each member of the group has a different list of four terms which they can use to answer the pop up question. Collectively they use the terms to answer all of questions in the race to reach the end first. A great catch is that if they get one term wrong it makes the students start again.
IMG_1990
On first impressions it sounds a little simple and a bit too much of a game, but it was one of the most fun and yet effective end of lesson activities I have done in a long time. Yet at the same time I think they all have mastered a broader list of terms that will hopefully help develop their ability to write more academically like an economist. Never underestimate the competitive nature of teenagers on a Monday morning.
A couple of hints to make it a more effective assessment task...
  • Share the Quizlet set of terms with the students for homework to look at independently before they do the game in class.
  • Carefully choose your lists of terms. A couple on my list had the actual word in the definition so made it easy to guess. (this was my Macroeconomic set)
  • Add a few terms to really stretch the students, or even from the next topic. 
  • Once the game is finished the screen changes to show feedback... essentially what were some commonly confused terms, what was the hardest to get correct etc. This is a good learning point where students could add to their notes or the teacher could unpack the misconception. (my students all stumbled on the inflation/disinflation/deflation terms and it was a timely reminder when the game prompted the kids to reflect on this at the end)
  • Pictures you might have added to the quiz don't show in the game at the moment
  • You need at least 6 kids and I think at least 12 terms to make it worthwhile.
  • You can repeat the same activity at the end of the game and choose to keep students in the same groups. If you want to then use a different set of terms you need to restart Quizlet Live and it then resets the groups. 
Enjoy and please comment if you find it useful or have other ideas on it's use.

Friday, 29 April 2016

The iLearn Showcase


Team Time’ is a time in each grade in the Primary School when the DLC is available specifically to a  team to facilitate collaborative and individualised (Hixon & Buckenmeyer, 2009) teacher-generated opportunities to learn from and with each other (Pickering, 2007). These shorter, smaller and more frequent meetings are the kinds where collaborative work is more effective than larger, infrequent meetings (Cordingley et al, 2005; Devereux, 2009).


Most weeks these are informal affairs, that provide a forum for collaboration; teachers are able to discuss technical and curriculum questions, classroom management issues and assessment practices, as well as how to use available technology, and share tips and short cuts they have learned with/from their students (Ciampa & Gallagher, 2013). One teacher’s efficacy (often a 'Tech Mentor'—a teacher designated as having a particular role in the development of ICT within the grade level or department—but not always) with a particular tool can quickly became ‘viral’ with two or three other teachers eager to learn from a colleague’s expertise, very much imitating the way they observe their own students learn from each other.

The problem in a school as large as ours is finding ways for these powerful practices to expand beyond the bounds of one grade, to impact teaching practice in other grades as well. And so it was the 'ICT Showcase' was born, although iLearn Showcase would probably be a better name.


Photographs courtesy of Dave Caleb, DLC - East Campus



The annual showcase effectively extends ‘Team Time’ from grade to school level, including subject specialist teachers. All teachers attend and share by ‘mingling’ in small informal groups about the ways they have been integrating digital technologies - opportunities for purposeful talk are plentiful, and focus on specific aspects of technology enhanced learning (TEL) and the specific types of digital tools that they feel have proved effective in realising this. Plans for further development, or repurposing of other team’s uses of ICT are facilitated by the teachers themselves, who are currently using these ICTs, importantly not the DLCs, who act purely as mediators to facilitate learning conversations around what can be possibly be achieved with ICTs, in other grades and contexts.

If you'd like to see some of these examples, please view the relevant videos below, each one is about 10 minutes in length, and gives a good indication of the ways technology is currently being used at that grade level. Bear in mind we still have more than one term to go before we end this year, you can be sure there will be many more excellent examples at each grade level by then; many of them as a direct result of this showcase.


References

Ciampa K and Gallagher T L (2013). Professional learning to support elementary teachers’ use of the iPod Touch in the classroom, Professional Development in Education, DOI:10.1080/19415257.2012.749802

Cordingley P, Bell M, Evans D and Firth A (2005). 'The impact of collaborative continuing professional development (CPD) on classroom teaching and learning. Review: How do collaborative and sustained CPD and sustained but not collaborative CPD affect teaching and learning?' Research Evidence in Education Library London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London. 

Hixon E and Buckenmeyer J (2009). Revisiting technology integration in schools: Implications for professional development. Computers in the Schools, 26(2), 130-146.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

1:1 - Why?


1:1 via edtechteacher.org

Every now and then I come across an article that, while on the surface level seems fairly innocuous, causes me incredible consternation, articles like this,

"Kids Who Have to Share iPads Learn Better Than Kids Who Have Their Own".

The article is not a new one, but like many articles of its ilk, it has a habit of resurfacing periodically, as it did this week, finally motivating me to put fingers to keys.

There are so many things wrong with the assumptions made by the writer of this article, that it’s hard to know where to start. So in the absence of any better course of action, I’ll start at the beginning.

Firstly can we all just assume that, of course, sharing is a good thing, and so by implication is learning to share; but the truth is that it's the sharing that is beneficial not the object of the sharing. I see kids sharing and collaborating regularly, even when using their own screens; the extent to which this happens is all to do with the classroom culture carefully crafted by a caring teacher and nothing to do with the nature of the particular item.

Secondly, there is a problem with the evidence basis for the the findings of the research, starting with the assumption that performance in “a standardized literacy test at the end of the year compared to the beginning” is a valid measure.  Not to mention that an improvement of 28% v 24% in a study of 352 students really is not statistically significant, despite what the study's author says, another reason why it's never a good idea to rely on one source for anything of any real substance. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, the study extrapolated the results of a literacy test, to relate to their work with basic geometry?

I could accept basing the efficacy of a study on a standardised test if the focus of the study was specifically related to the test, eg working on improving spelling for example, but in this case, as in most of the cases of this kind, they make no effort whatsoever to relate the standardised test to the actual nature of the use of the devices. Which tells you a great deal about the study, that they didn't feel it worthwhile to actually describe what they are using the iPads for, which would seem to be glorified textbooks, which would explain why they felt standardised test would be a valid measure. All they are concerned about is to measure the extent to which students have absorbed specific surface content, without any consideration about deeper conceptual development or creativity and all those other soft skills that really do matter much more.

So, why 1:1?

Whenever I encounter someone who is under the impression that providing students with their own device is a little, well, excessive, I strongly suspect two things:

1. They don't have to share the digital device/s (more likely 2 or 3) they rely on, and they take the obvious benefits of this for granted.

2. They are making some profoundly dubious assumptions about the way we encourage students to use these devices.

You can be sure that any advocate for shared devices never shares their own device 50:50. Can you imagine how far you would get in your daily work if you had to share your laptop 50:50 with a colleague in the office? You can be sure that the same person so gleefully anticipating a social nirvana where all of these students happily share their devices is suffering from a profound case of media bias, or device disorder. I’m sure the same person would never countenance asking the same students to share a pencil, or a paintbrush. How about an exercise book? You start from the front, and I’ll start from the back... These devices are all tools, very few of which were purpose built for a classroom, but all of which can be very successfully repurposed for an educational context by skilled teachers. I find teachers that are blasé about the need for students to have their own devices tells me more about the lack of importance they associate with the device than it does about the use of it.

The way you use these devices has profound implications for the desirable ratio of devices to students; a classroom where all the iPads are used for is glorified textbooks, or for educational "games" and skill drill, then sharing one iPad between five, or ten or even twenty really is not a problem. But a classroom where the teacher expects kids to actually create artefacts that are meaningful over time, is a classroom that benefits from the lowest possible ratio of student to device.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that a 1:1 context is a prerequisite for successful learning, many teachers all over the world, do amazing things everyday with limited resources, but that doesn’t mean that this paucity of resources is something they find preferable. Anyone who thinks so, clearly has never attempted to use these devices themselves.

Allow me to illustrate with an analogy.

Cycling is good for you, it’s also much less harmful for the environment than an aeroplane. So next time you want to travel between, say London and Singapore, don’t fly, cycle. ...

This logic only makes sense if you never had to actually travel between London and Singapore yourself (and if you’re not in hurry). There is something to be said as well for determination, I have a good friend who shares his laptop with the 24 kids in his class, on a rota basis. Do they benefit? Yes. Is the sharing beneficial for them? Maybe. Is this his preferred arrangement? Of course not.

Back to the bicycle.

Would I ever countenance the idea of cycling from London to Singapore? No ... unless that was the only way I was ever going to visit Asia, (and I had plenty of time, and a very good bicycle). Consciousness of the desirability of the goal has a direct bearing on one's determination to persevere despite the obstacles that may be present. Would it be good for me? Yes. So am I going to do it? No. I am not. Well, maybe. For many years, teachers who are profoundly aware of the value of designing experiences for their students to enhance their learning with digital tools have persevered despite many obstacles to make this a reality for their students, but would they prefer 1:1? Of course they do. How do I know? I was one, more than once. UWCSEA is the first school I've ever had the pleasure to work at, that has such a phenomenal level of resourcing, resourcing that is 'normal' here would be considered extraordinary in many, if not most other schools in the world. In my previous schools, scavenging abandoned computers, salvaging parts, and spending hours beyond number to build a rudimentary ‘lab’ for my students was a frequent experience. Why? I knew it was a tool that would considerably benefit their learning, and my teaching. I was wrestling to enhance the learning of my students in the early days at the turn of the century when ‘TEL’ still was yet to become a ‘thing’.

1:1 works better - shall I count the ways?

When my school announced five years ago, that we were embarking on a tech enhanced learning (TEL) initiative, it was assumed then that the 1:1 ratio only applied for older students, middle school and up. While the ratio of devices in the Primary School was going to be significantly increased, from about 5:1 to more like 2:1, the intention was never to provide 1:1 in the primary school as well. So what changed that situation? I did.

Can we work with shared devices? Yes. Can we work better when we have our own device? Yes. Interestingly the main pressure to go 1:1 came from our teachers, even when we expanded to a 2:1 ratio, the more effective they became at utilising digital tech, the more ridiculous expecting the kids to share devices became.

The truth is that the benefits of 1:1 have really surprised me, I was kind of oblivious of how powerful that really is, just from a logistical standpoint. With shared devices it is all too common for students to accidentally delete each other's work which is quite soul destroying, and especially with video editing in the junior school attempting to work on a project over several weeks is impossible with a shared machine. This means that any creating on the device (the most important use) has to be confined to short simple activities that can be started and completed within one lesson, this really does diminish the power of those tools.

This means that the main reason for going 1:1 is not really about two kids needing to use the device at the same time, although that is a factor, it's about valuing and protecting the importance of the artefacts created by each individual child. The biggest advantage I found by going 1:1 is to do with the fact that the work on that device cannot be accidentally tampered or deleted by a well-meaning (or maybe not so well-meaning) friend. If all the kids use the device for is shallow tasks like skill and drill apps, taking tests, and passively consuming media, then clearly sharing them is less of an issue. However, I think this is actually highlights a bigger problem! If we are encouraging our kids to do meaningful creative work on these devices then they will have media saved on the device that they would be upset about if it was accidentally deleted by a classmate.

Not to mention the issue of 'ownership', a child who is responsible for their own device, apart from the obvious personal social merits of having to take that responsibility, is also a child who feels like the work on there is work that is all theirs. This aspect became quickly apparent, kids really do benefit from their "ownership" of one device, including in ways we hadn’t anticipated, such as: customising it so that it operates the way they want it to; using a picture of their face for the wallpaper; being able to actually choose to share content on their iPads with their parents directly, this is the kind of thing that a one-to-one environment would make very straightforward but that they shared environment would be quite difficult. This even extends to the physical device itself—sharing ‘their’ device with their parents at parent teacher conference means there is something quite empowering about that kind of "ownership" even at such a young age. This aspect encourages a sense of responsibility that is powerful in terms of 'digital citizenship'; such as the fact that the teacher can expect the student for example to curate and manage their camera roll with their media responsibly; there is no way the student can evade responsibility by blaming other students who also use the iPad—a common issue with shared devices.

To summarise, 1:1 matters because:

  • access to device whenever needed
  • opportunity to do extended tasks
  • simpler logistics, no more loan systems to manage
  • organisation - curation and management of the device
  • ownership - personalise the device to work they you like it
  • responsibility - no abdication, your battery, your files, your work, your way
  • security - the fruits of your labours, safe from prying eyes and fingers

So when I encounter people who are under the impression that 1:1 is excessive (the implication in the article) I know there is an assumption behind these ideas that the digital tools are used so infrequently and so ineffectively (ie skill drill, and games) that expecting kids to share them is no big deal, but in classrooms where these tools are effectively integrated and used to record, reflect and create, they are actually very difficult to share, not because of a lack of willingness to do so, but because both kids actually need to use the device at the same time, and really value the content they are curating and collecting on their own device.  You can be sure the journalist who wrote the article wasn’t using a machine she was sharing; why?

She uses it to create